High Potentials Leadership – A Burning Platform


This is the second instalment in our guest series, How to be a Magnet for High Potentials and Emerging Leaders, written by Dr. Gail Johnson Morris.

You may be reading this because HiPo development and engagement is an imperative for you.  You are not alone as the HR Reporter estimates companies invest 3 billion a year in leadership development. You want to make sure your company gets a return on your investment from your high potentials development program.

Consider these dramatic demographic shifts that impact HiPo talent development:

1. Rise in the median age from 39 to 47 by 2056

2. In 2013, there were fewer people joining the workforce than people old enough to leave

3. Baby-boomers represented 40% of the working population and they are retiring now.   Demographics are driving change in leadership for example in Ontario, 60% of the government retired by 2015

4. With the reduced workforce, skill gaps in critical areas get worse, especially in computing, IT, and engineering.

5. Along with the talent shortage is the issue of skill mismatch, causing underemployment for recent graduates who lack critical job-specific experience.

6. A shift in worker organizational loyalty and goals.  GenXers took the baby-boomers treatment by corporations as a cautionary tale, embedding a different value system.  We found that GenXers move on if their assignments fail to stretch or challenge them.  Generation X & Y workforces are loyal to their friends, work well in teams, expect work/life balance and move around naturally rather than desiring a one-company career.

7. Massive transformation of how we work, how we organize projects and how we collaborate to produce results. The world of work is changing.

Why an e-book on High Potentials?

The Corporate Executive Board reported that the greatest engagement concern of Chief Human Resources Officer’s was the increased turnover of high-potential employees. 

Chambers & Foulton coined the ‘war on talent’, stating “companies are about to be engaged in a war for senior executive talent that will remain the defining characteristic of their competitive landscapes for decades to come”.

Addressing the development and retention of HiPo leaders becomes a strategic imperative for any senior executives with long term visions or strategic plans.  With this e-book, we seek to fill the HiPo ‘how to’ gap with original thought-leadership research that provides you with a world-class HiPo development and engagement plan and how to convert your organization into a HiPo magnet! 

Who did we talk to about High Potentials Expectations?

1. Interviews with 8 Chief Talent Officers (CTO) uncovered the strategic nature of HiPo programs and elements that work.

2. Interviews with 45 HiPos, as identified by the CTOs. 49% female and 51% male, with a median age of 44 years.  These HiPos’ tenure was on average 12 years and their tenure in current roles was 1.5 years.

Having input from so many HiPos ensured our conclusions were well-informed. You may consider this e-book as generally representative of North American HiPo leaders.

Two Guiding Principles for Your Successful HiPo Programs

1. Align values & strategic priorities with the HiPo program.  Systems thinking underpins any effective HiPo program design. That means true engagement in strategy, projects and roles. Not just speakers about leadership. HiPos want meaningful projects to expand their domain knowledge, critical experiences and leadership capability. HiPos want meaningful projects that allow them to show how they can impact the business results in a tangible way. Think P&L experience, increasing profit, improving margins, and solving customer retention challenges.

2. Transparent communication protocols that reinforce values are integral and executives want to be fully aligned to your organization’s strategic and business priorities. Gone are the days of do as I say, not as I do. Senior executives get watched closely for their leadership triggers, their responses and reactions. Seagull leadership in HiPo programs sends all the wrong messages. You want executives present for meaningful business conversations when the projects and/or results are presented. Not for the kick-off. Walk your talk.

What is the best part of a well-executed HiPo program? 

Your HiPo leaders become immersed in a thoughtful, holistic and accelerated leader development program, and they increase your organization’s results, bench strength, agility and social capital.  You reap the rewards of championing a world-class HiPo magnet program!



Each person has a natural communication style.
Understanding yours can and will impact how effective you are when dealing with friends, co-workers and clients.